Oral and Overall Health
Third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth,” typically appear in the mouth between the ages of 17 and 25. Most people have four third molars (two in the top arch of teeth and two in the bottom), but some people may have just one, two, three, or even none. When these teeth break through the gum, they are said to have “erupted.”1
A third molar is considered to be impacted when it fails to erupt or only partially erupts through the gum tissue. Impacted third molars are very common and often cause no pain or problems. It’s important to remember that whether they are erupted or impacted, it is possible for wisdom teeth to cause problems if they are not properly cared for by brushing, flossing, and having regular visits to your dentist.2
You should discuss your options with your dentist before making any decisions regarding your third molars. Depending on the current state of your third molars (such as whether or not they are impacted, the position in which they are erupting, and how they may be affecting the teeth adjacent to your third molars), your dentist will recommend the best course of action for you. Your dentist may also refer you to an oral surgeon, a dentist who specializes in removal of third molars, for further evaluation.
There are different schools of thought surrounding the removal (extraction) of third molars. According to the American Dental Association, the “extraction of wisdom teeth is generally recommended when:
1 American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. “Wisdom Teeth,” https://www.aaoms.org/images/uploads/pdfs/Ebook_Wisdom_Teeth_R.pdf. Accessed 04/19/2018.
2 MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia. “Impacted Tooth,” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001057.htm . Accessed 04/19/2018.
3 American Dental Association. “Wisdom Teeth,” https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/wisdom-teeth. Accessed 04/19/2018.
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